College Tuition and State Residency

Students receive a college tuition break if they live in the state where they hope to attend a public college or university. Specific rules that vary state by state govern the definition of "in-state residency." Each state exempts certain classes of students as well. And some states grant in-state status to non-resident students who achieve certain academic goals. The following highlights the impact of the in-state designation and looks at examples of requirements.

Resident vs. Non-Resident College Tuition

A student considered a resident of a state pays lower college tuition than students considered non-residents. The State University of New York offers a clear example of resident vs. non-resident expenses. While the total estimated cost of a year at SUNY is about $19,000 for a state resident living on campus, that amount is $27,000 for a non-resident. The difference is almost entirely in college tuition. Tuition for an in-state resident is about $4,900 per year. For a non-resident, the amount is almost three times as much: $12,800 per year.

What Is a Resident?

For purposes of college tuition, each state defines a "resident" differently. A few examples will illustrate the general trends in how residency gets defined:

    * Alaska--The College Board definition of "resident" for Alaska includes "any person or dependent child of an Alaskan resident who has been physically present in Alaska for one year at the time of class registration." Then it goes on to list several exceptions to the definition.
    * Texas--The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's definition of resident includes anyone 18 years or older working in the state for more than 12 months. The definition also includes dependent minor children of state residents and also lists numerous exceptions.
    * Florida--The Florida Legislature empowers the board of regents of the State University of Florida System to define residency. In Florida, you must demonstrate that your living in the state for more than 12 months is "incidental to enrollment in an institution of higher learning." Which means out-of-state residents cannot move to Florida just to get in-state college tuition.

Exceptions to the Rules

There are exceptions in every state to the rules defining state residency. As with the definitions themselves, these vary state by state. For example, in Alaska, military members stationed in the state are considered residents and qualify for in-state college tuition.

In Tennessee, the spouse of a resident is automatically considered a resident. And military members stationed in Tennessee qualify as residents, but so do those stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

In many states, Mississippi being an example, students of parents who work for a state institution of higher learning also receive the discounted college tuition.

Earning Your Education

Many institutions of higher learning grant college tuition discounts based on academic achievement. As an example, the University of Arkansas will consider a student a resident of the state for purposes of college tuition if the student has a certain SAT score and maintains a given grade point average.

Exceptions to the Exceptions

The best course of action is to check with the particular college the student hopes to attend. For example, in Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University grants exceptions based on academic qualifications. However, Oklahoma University does not.

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